1 [Riga]

There is a teaching that says, “Joy is lodged in one side of my heart, and weeping is lodged in the other side.”2

Some of those who study Tanya descend from chassidic stock; others aim for the goal that chassidim aim for; and there are other, non-chassidic Jews,3 who study works of Mussar, such as Chovas HaLevavos, and Shaarei Teshuvah by Rabbeinu Yonah.

As far as Tanya is concerned, joy is lodged in my heart because it is being studied, but weeping is lodged in my heart because some people relate to it as if it were a Mussar text. If this is how it is regarded, as an intellectual exercise, that makes me very, very unhappy, because Tanya is neither a Mussar text nor material for an intellectual exercise.

Rather, Tanya is Torah Shebichsav, the Written Law [of the teachings of Chassidus],4 and every word in it was written with the perspiration of mesirus nefesh.

The letters of the Alter Rebbe relate to all kinds of subjects, including recommendations, ransom of captives, and so on. Once, in the midst of writing a letter, his mind was overwhelmed – because at that moment he was about to write the words, “I fear G‑d.”5 But for that to happen, one has to live at that level.6

Every word of Tanya was written with mesirus nefesh.

Since you are studying Tanya, you should stop and think – what you looked like before you began to study Tanya, and what you look like after studying Tanya. [For example:] How did the study of Tanya affect you with regard to shutting your eyes [from seeing evil] and stopping your ears…?7 To go and hear Tanya from a Yid who is a tzaddik and a chassid who stands in awe of Heaven – Reb Yitzchak24 – is just perfect.

One should learn and also teach.8 One should know what the Torah desires. [For example,] a Torah scholar9 should wear a beard and peyos; he should not look European. He should influence his environment,10 not be influenced by his environment. A Torah scholar should be a soldier, and a true soldier should be exactly the same when he is in his barracks as he is when he is at the front lines – not like a soldier who on the battlefield feels the same as he feels when he is in his barracks.... A true soldier is dispatched to the front, but as far as you are concerned, that is not what will bring about the salvation of the Jewish people. You can’t yet be sent to the front. When you study Torah, that requires mesirus nefesh on your part, because it would be much easier to be out in the street. But being a Torah scholar must be translated into actual practical expression; otherwise, a person is left without the benefits of this side or that.

For forty years now (May G‑d grant long days and years, till 120!), I’ve toiled to disseminate Torah, toiled with Torah-perspiration. I’m soaked in it. So have the compassion to understand where I’m coming from. If a child falls ill, the mother cries out and claps her hands in anguish. So understand me. A Torah scholar should wear a beard and peyos!

So, too, I think that in Poland, where some of you come from, people used to wear a gartl.11 Not that I want to make a point specifically about that practice, but more generally: the positive practices of the Old Country have been left back there, and the negative ones have been brought here.

The present virtual picture of all of you standing around me will remain ever engraved in my memory – though this picture should really have been more beautiful. In the course of these forty years, efforts were invested in little folk until they attained a certain spiritual standing.

* * *

May G‑d grant you success in your Torah studies, so that you grow up to be scholars and G‑d-fearing chassidim. Through you may the Divine Will be fulfilled – that the Torah’s “wisdom will cry out in public places.”12

And please don’t take offense, because the words that were spoken are true, and they sprang from a deep place in the heart, lovingly.